A group of Thai immigration authorities has been arrested in an alleged bribery case involving illegal fishing that happened last year. The 11 individuals include six immigration police, and five other immigration officials working at marine border and disease control checkpoints. The Deputy Commissioner of the Royal Thai Police, Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn, announced their arrests yesterday.
The group has been accused of accepting bribes to help release five foreign fishing trawlers that were caught illegally fishing in Thai waters in December 2021. After legal procedures, the trawlers had been kept at the Songkhla customs office, and were later put up for auction. The trawlers were then barred from leaving Thailand.
But soon, the trawlers were seen entering Malaysian waters. Thai and Malaysian police worked to catch the runaway vessels, and 13 people were arrested. As the police kept investigating, they found that the 11 government authorities had also been involved.
The arrest warrants for the group were for taking bribes, malfeasance, and dereliction of their duties. All 11 individuals have surrendered, and are being held in custody in Songkhla pending legal action, according to Surachate.
This is (very) far from the first bribery case involving Thai authorities. The country’s police are notorious for taking bribes. Just this week, three police officers in Songkhla came under investigation for soliciting bribes from three men caught crossing into Thailand with e-cigarettes.
In April this year, four officers in the northern Chiang Rai province took a 1 million baht bribe from a Chinese gang filming live pornography at two resorts.
In May, police paid a rather tense and ironic visit to Chon Buri’s immigration office to warn staff “don’t take bribes“.
The recent incident involving the illegal fishing is just the latest in Thailand’s insidious problem with bribery.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post
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